The Cure for Enterprise Software Fatigue

Posted on July 14, 2010

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Whenever I am contacted by a vendor for a “pre” press release briefing, I always go into the discussion with one part interest, one part cynicism and one part optimism.

The interest of course is part of my natural curiosity about almost anything – which is why I guess I enjoy hosting a talk radio show.

The cynicism aspect of the briefing quotient is tied to the fact that very few companies actually have something worthwhile to say when they do a release.  I am immediately reminded of a press release I received earlier this year from a vendor (whose activities are usually very interesting), regarding a round of financing.

When I shared this information with Brad Feld, who is one of the top high tech VC’s in the country and the author of the leading VC blog Feld Thoughts, his “so what” response to this supposedly exciting news was the exclamation point to my own initial take on a release that should have never been sent.

The optimism element of my approach to press releases is that at the end of the day the company actually has something to say and, that through my own unique lens – perhaps the effect of playing one too many football games without a helmet – I can add value to you my readership.

For this reason I always look forward to the “chats” I have with either Rob Bernshteyn or Jason Hekl from Coupa.

While I am bound by a double secret handshake kind of confidentiality relative to tomorrow’s press release, in which I cannot disclose any  of the specific details of the release itself, I can say that when the information is disclosed it will be one of those “hey . . . these things just snap right off” kind of Larson Far Side moments.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Far Side, the specific frame to which I am referring is where one circus bear turns to the other to share the epiphany that their muzzles simply come off with a flick of a clasp.  Completely unaware, the human trainer is happily cracking the whip with the bears that are performing in the main ring.

Ironically, and like Coupa’s competitors, who happily toil under the guise of a similar invincibility especially as it relates to larger organizations, market acceptance of the company’s dashboard-styled solutions is definitely not confined to the small to mid-market end-user.

Despite what a Jason Bush may opine, specifically in his February 25th post on Spend Matters in which he stated; “In reality, I’d argue that Coupa has indeed taken things a bit further than Ariba when it comes to flexibility in requisitioning; however, in larger organizations, iRequest and iBuy defeat the purpose of rationalizing spend with specific suppliers to hit volume-discount thresholds. Going to non-contracted supplier sites through iRequest and iBuy may not constitute a maverick purchase in the purest sense, but it’s certainly close to one, given the lack of a contract, price sheet, and potential discount/rebate schedule,” recent big wins with organizations such as retail giant Michael’s proves that a broadly applied “rationalizing of spend” approach has more to do with vendor limitations versus practical application.

Even though Busch may call it rhetoric, the fact remains that true SaaS-based dashboard solutions that provide real-time, real-world intelligence at the point of purchase is the long overdue response to the tired ERP-centric platforms offered through “Ariba, SAP or Oracle” . . .  Vinimaya or jCatalog solutions notwithstanding.

Cataloging of course is a throwback to the days prior to automation when as a buyer I would have to physically access a library of endless “books” and then manually search through voluminous indexes in an effort to locate a part (usually an Indirect Material MRO product), and then call the supplier to ascertain if they still had the needed item in stock.  Over time, these catalogs became a morass of post-it notes or folded page corners with hastily scribbled notes serving as the SEO of the human interface.

When vendors first began creating electronic catalogs, it was certainly a major breakthrough however, it set these early companies on a relative course to oblivion in that it locked them into a model that had a limited shelf life.

Similar to the few remaining buggy whip manufacturers in the waning days of the horse and carriage, those companies locked into the artificially confining realms of catalog content management today are, without a doubt, the best in their field.  Unfortunately, it is a rapidly shrinking field in which the FUD factor that manacled the majority of large end-user clients to the SAPs and Oracles no longer carries any real weight.

The fact that recent comments by the likes of a John Wookey who acknowledged that “Customers that already have gone with SaaS in addition to an on-premise suite may not swap out for on-demand orchestration,” is an overt signal of this pending paradigm shift.

Why Busch and company would continue to cleave to this sinking ERP orchestration ship that reportedly “saves” end-users from the effects of SaaS Sprawl is anyone’s guess.

Change nonetheless is coming if not already upon us.  This takes us back full circle to the opening comments from today’s post, and why tomorrow’s news release from Coupa is worth noting.